Don’t call it a comeback, the Windsor Spitfires have been here for years.
The Spitfires reeled off four-straight wins to rally from a 3-0 series deficit and dump the Kitchener Rangers on Sunday afternoon and move on to the Ontario Hockey League championship.
They’ll be meeting the Barrie Colts for the John Ross Robertson Cup and the chance to repeat as the Memorial Cup champions.
There is a blend of confidence and desperation surrounding the Spitfires, as they have one of the most loaded rosters in junior hockey, but most of their key personnel like Taylor Hall and Cam Fowler are going to graduate to the National Hockey League.
Windsor was also supposed to easily dispose of Kitchener but struggled mightily against the surprising Rangers. This combination of hope and fear will make them a determined squad when they meet Barrie on Friday.
The Western Hockey League also followed the script, with the top-seeded Tri-City Americans besting the Vancouver Giants in six games and the Calgary Hitmen topping the Brandon Wheat Kings in five games.
It’s worth noting that Wheat Kings fans shouldn’t despair – as Brandon is hosting the Canadian Hockey League’s top tournament they’ll still get a shot at the Memorial Cup.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is the only CHL division that hasn’t sorted out its final, with the Saint John Sea Dogs and Victoriaville Tigres still engaged in their semifinal series.
Whoever wins that team will go on to face the Moncton Wildcats for the QMJHL’s President’s Cup.
Moncton should be fresh after dealing with the Drummondville Voltigeurs in just five games.
Longtime readers will know that this is something of a disappointment to me. I had a great deal of faith in Drummondville and their goaltender Jake Allen, picking them to advance to the Memorial Cup.
Aside from that hiccup, everything else is playing out correctly in my early predictions. I’m pleased to say that the remaining teams really are the cream of the CHL crop. When action picks up again on Friday it should make for some exciting hockey.
Now things get interesting.
I made some predictions in this space last Wednesday, and, well, as far as prognostication goes I guess I shouldn’t quit my day job.
The biggest shock is that the Windsor Spitfires, favoured by me to win the Ontario Hockey League’s Western Conference, looks dead on arrival, already trailing the Kitchener Rangers 3-0 in their semifinal match-up.
Most shocking of all is that the third loss came on a heartbreaking goal when Kitchener’s Gabriel Landeskog dumped the puck into Windsor’s end where it bounced past Troy Passingham to stand as the winner.
(Check out of 3:54 of this video to see for yourself.)
It’s shocking to see last year’s Memorial Cup Champions, featuring a host of all-star talent including Taylor Hall and Cam Fowler, struggling like this. They're a stocked roster that most liked to win the John Ross Robertson cup.
If anything, this just opens the door for an easy Barrie Colts victory in the final, as they will surely finish off the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors.
Similarly, the Drummondville Voltigeurs, my favourites to win the Quebec Major Junior hockey League, are down 2-0 in their series with the Moncton Wildcats.
It gets worse for Drummondville too: the next two games of the season will be in New Brunswick, with Moncton having home ice advantage.
I thought that the stellar play of goaltender Jake Allen would be enough to sustain the Voltigeurs, but it looks like an all-New Brunswick final is the QMJHL’s destiny, with both Moncton and the Saint John Sea Dogs looking strong.
Meanwhile, both series in the Western Hockey League are all tied up at 1-1. The Calgary Hitmen and Brandon Wheat Kings will meet again on Tuesday night in Manitoba, while the Tri-City Americans and Vancouver Giants will hook up in British Columbia the same night.
I should note that I have some good news and some bad news. The Good: I have been moved to the pagination department for the duration of the summer and will return to the junior hockey beat in September. The Bad: This means that I will not be writing or editing Canadian Hockey League copy for the rest of the playoffs.
Fear not dear reader! I will still write about the goings-on in Canadian junior hockey every Monday. It's a drug; I'm addicted.